• Question: can you die from tonsilitis?

    Asked by amyr to Enda, Jean, Tim on 22 Nov 2012.
    • Photo: Jean Bourke

      Jean Bourke answered on 22 Nov 2012:

      Not really. You’d have to be incrediby unlucky and also not have sought treatment.

      Most cases of tonsilits clear up in less than a week even without treatment, but you do have to take easy and make sure you stay warm and hydrated.

      If the infections is really bad and you get an abscess or something similar, it could perhaps spread to your blood and become septicaemia. If the swelling got really bad, perhaps dehydration could be and issue. To be honest though I’m trying to find ways for it to kill you but it’s hard!

      Don’t panic, stay warm and hydrated, and you’ll be fine. That’s actually pretty good advice for dealing with moth things!

    • Photo: Enda O'Connell

      Enda O'Connell answered on 22 Nov 2012:

      Hi AmyR,

      There have been a few cases of death by tonsillitis. In fact, it is thought that the first president of the US George Washington, died from quinsy, a complication from tonsillitis, where pus collects beside the tonsils and can cause an abscess or septicaemia. There have also been cases reported, mainly in children, of complications from tonsillitis where the airway has become narrowed causing asphyxiation.

      However, as Jean says, if you have sought treatment for your tonsillitis and you are being looked after, then these complications should not occur. The most common treatments for tonsillitis are anti-inflammatories medications to reduce the swelling and antibiotics (e.g penicllin) if the infection is bacterial. If it is viral and not improving on its own (antibiotics don’t work against viruses) or if the bacterial infection persists, then a tonsillectomy may be necessary to remove it.

      Do you still have your tonsils?